Saturday, 13 March 2010

Suspiria (1977)

Suspiria is arguably Dario Argento's most well-known film out of his entire catalogue. It is notorious in equal measure for its visuals and its ridiculous (and near incomprehensible) plot. Me? I love it. I think it is a work of twisted art that works much better on an aesthetic level than as a piece of storytelling.

There are moments during Suspiria that are so odd they seem dreamlike. Vibrant colours and surreal imagery are the order fo the day, worked into a delightfully odd tale set in a ballet school. This film was the first part of Argento's 'Three Mothers' trilogy, which continued in 1980 with 'Inferno' and was finally completed in 2007 with the fan-dividing effort 'Mother Of Tears', which I rather liked, despite its glaring faults.

A young American dancer arrives at a ballet school, and as her experiences at the school become ever stranger (maggots raining from the ceiling, odd sightings of strange creatures, brutal murders and all manner of delirious, tripped out imagery), she discovers that the school is hiding a rather more sinister organization beneath its staid exterior, namely a cult, plotting more death and mayhem.

Suspiria is very much a case if style over substance. Visually it is gorgeous, with some beautifully framed cinematography and some very striking images playing out before the viewer's hungry eyes. As a complete film though, it's not so great. The nightmarish, unnerving quality of the film gives the sometimes non-linear sequence of events a disjointed feel not unlike that of a terrifying dream.

It's a film that is sure to be despised by many fans of the current wave of horror films. You need a certain appreciation of older techniques and horror concepts to really get much out of this flick, but for all of its mental moments and bizarre dialogue, it's rather wonderful.

One of the standout aspects of the film is the exemplary electronic score provided by The Goblins (aka just 'Goblin'), which is a marvel of hypnotic synths and effects that really adds to the bizarre mayhem onscreen.

Parts of it come across as an obscure play, some moments bring to mind Jean Rollin's films (in terms of the ideas rather than the amount of visible skin), and while the acting and script are regularly quite a chore to sit through, Suspiria is a hugely enoyable and widely debated film that really brought Dario Argento to a wider audience around the world.

Friday, 5 March 2010

The Driller Killer (1979)

Some films are notorious for being notorious, and Abel Ferrara's 1979 rock n' roll serial killer flick DRILLER KILLER is a prime example. The cover is awesome, but that's about as good as the film gets, really. It's notable as it was one of the first films to be deemed a 'Video nasty' back in the golden age of insane films showing up on tatty videos, but when you watch it, it's kind of hard to see why.

Yes, there is some shocking violence, but there's also a very, very dull and prolonged build-up before much actually happens. It's badly shot, badly acted, badly directed and doesn't even have much of a kitsch factor to keep you watching beyond the needless scenes of a band playing dull old new wave rock in a minging flat.

Once the violence comes, there are some engaging scenes and an almost compelling sense of growing madness in the lead character, Reno Miller (played by Abel Ferrara himself), but for me it's too little, too late.

Then again, maybe the hype and the reputation of the film has set me up to have expected more from it in terms of shock, and the fact that it has a decent build-up and some character development may have been lost on me as I'd been expecting an all-out bloodbath. That's an interesting malaise which affects many 'classic' films now.

People have heard so much about these classic horrors that when young audiences get to see them, they are left either underwhelmed or openly laughing at things that would once have terrified audiences. This is a huge shame, as it means that for some people they will never be able to appreciate an older film properly.

Our desensitization to violence in the media has certainly had one outcome- if things don't go too far, then many of us may think that they don't go far enough. In the case of The Driller Killer, the controversy surrounding it has built its mystique up to the point that no matter how good the film was, it wouldn't live up to expectations. A shame, really.

You know what?

I'm keeping the name of this place as THE GENRE ADDICT after all. I'd decided to change it to DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT, but have changed my mind. It's clearly not the other 'Genreaddict' site and clearly not trying to mimic it. Thus, the name stays the same. Once again I have sucked at keeping the posts flowing here. Thus, while my schedule continues to see me writing so much that my fingers start to melt, I shall revive The Genre Addict with new reviews. Whenever possible (or appropriate) the reviews will be full-length and in-depth. Otherwise, they will be shorter and to the point. Anyway. I'm back in action (again) and the addict is once again addicted.